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Pottery/Restoring Old Outside Ceramics

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QUESTION: I bought old ceramic figures that I want to remove the old chipping paint and then repaint them the best way for outside use. How do I do this

ANSWER: Dear Melissa,

Thank you for your recent question. Restoring or refinishing ceramics is a lot of work, especially if the piece has a lot of detail. However, if you are wishing to take on the task, it will depend on how you wish to refinish them. I will give you instructions on both removing glaze and re-glazing and firing as well as repairing the old glaze and painting the ceramics with paint for outdoor use. Either method should give you many years of use.

CERAMIC GLAZE REMOVAL, RE-GLAZE and FIRING

Since we do not know the type of clay materials the pieces were made from, we will use a low fire glaze method to keep from bring the clay up to a firing point beyond its maturing level.

You will not need to remove all of the old glaze, however, you will need to create a surface that will allow the new glaze to adhere to the surface and smooth out the areas where there is chipping so the surface is smooth.

You can use an electric sanding disk or a Dremmel tool to work over the chipped areas and smooth out the surface. Work slowly and work the tool from the glaze area to the un-glazed area to create a smooth surface. You are primarily trying to remove the edge of the glaze and smooth it down to the level of the un-glazed surface.

Next, use sandpaper (360 or higher) to scratch the complete surface of the glaze. This will allow the new glaze to adhere to the ware.

Go to your local pottery shop or ceramic supply store and purchase low fire glaze in the colors that you want to glaze your ware. Be creative, but choose the same type of glaze, i.e. matte surface, glossy surface, opaque or translucent colors. Using glaze brushes, brush on three coats of the glaze for each color. Refrain from mixing colors as glazes do not react like paints and will not create new colors like red and blue making purple. If you want purple, buy purple. Glaze colors next to each other, but do not overlap them.

Once you have glazed your ware, allow to dry for one day and then take to a ceramic studio for firing. Tell them you need the ware low fired.

This completes the instructions for re-glazing and firing your ware.

PAINTING

To begin with, you will follow the same instructions as above to prepare the ware for painting. You will not need to remove all of the old glaze, however, you will need to create a surface that will allow the new glaze to adhere to the surface and smooth out the areas where there is chipping so the surface is smooth.

You can use an electric sanding disk or a Dremmel tool to work over the chipped areas and smooth out the surface. Work slowly and work the tool from the glaze area to the un-glazed area to create a smooth surface. You are primarily trying to remove the edge of the glaze and smooth it down to the level of the un-glazed surface.

Next, use sandpaper (360 or higher) to scratch the complete surface of the glaze. This will allow the new glaze to adhere to the ware.

Now that the ware is prepared for painting, you will need to purchase enamel paints and paint brushes to complete the coverage. With this type of decoration, you will have a bit more creative leeway and can mix colors if needed and overlap colors. However, your colors will be bright and opaque and glossy.

It is suggested that you purchase a neutral color, such as white, black or brown and paint the complete surface of the ware to create a base pallet to work with. Let this dry for at least 48 hours as it takes longer for enamel paint to dry on pottery than it does on other surfaces. Once dry, you can begin decorating the ware with your choice colors. Be sure and let areas where you wish to over paint with other colors dry before painting with over colors. This will prevent running and swirling of the colors.

Once you have fully decorated your ware, it is ready for use. I suggest you store your ware inside during winter months if it gets below zero for several days. Not because of the painted surface, but because some pottery will crack if water is absorbed into the surface and freezes. It would be a shame to have something you have worked so hard on destroyed during a cold freeze.

I hope I have answered your question fully. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me any time. I am always at your service. Good luck with your project.

Sincerely,
Ms. Ti Phillips
Earth Stoke 'N Fire Pottery Studio and Artist Retreat
www.earthstokenfire.com

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: So I don't have to remove all the old paint but sand to a smooth surface. It is a detailed gnome. I do not have a cermaic shop near me, so firing again is not possible. I have places on his nose,lip,and leg that the bisc has fallen off and a quarter size hole in back of his arm how to do I repair this and prepair for painting? Thank you for your time and answers as I am wanting to learn to do this. If I succeed with this one I have a girl to do to. I wish there was a shop near here as it is a lost art.  Melissa

Answer
Dear Melissa,

Thank you for your follow up question. Correct, you do not have to remove all of the old glaze. The main goal is to create a scared surface so that the enamel paint will adhere to the old glaze surface. The easiest way to repair the broken pieces of the gnome is to use plaster of Paris. I will give you the steps below.

You can use the following steps for repairing any holes and cracks in the gnome.

If you are able to reach inside the gnome, place tape over the hole inside the gnome to create a surface to work with. Prepare approximately 1/2 cup of plaster according to directions, to start with as plaster will dry quickly. Begin plugging the hole by spreading the plaster into the hold and onto the surface of the tape until the hole is filled. If it fills the hole completely to the surface, spread the plaster with your finger until the surface is as smooth as possible. Allow to dry.

The plaster may pull away from the edges of the bisque as it dries. Do not worry about this as you will mix a new batch of plaster to fill in any cracks and or separated areas after the plaster has dried.

If the plaster continues to show signs of separation, use some Elmer's wood glue to fill in the cracks. Once dried, this will create a connection between the bisque and plaster and make them stronger.

Once dried, used 360 grit sand paper to smooth the surface of the plaster, then paint as instructed in the first reply.

If you are unable to reach inside the gnome, retrieve a newspaper and begin with balls of newspaper small enough to stuff inside the gnome. Fill the gnome with newspaper until the newspaper creates a surface to work with where the hole is. Then follow the instructions above for preparing the plaster of Paris and filling the hole.

Although plaster of Paris and bisque are completely different materials, you will be using enamel paint to complete the surface covering of the gnome, thereby protecting the under surface of the gnome.

I hope this answers your questions. My apologies on the timeliness of the answer to this question. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me again. I am always at your service. Much luck to you.

Sincerely,
Ms. Ti Phillips
Earth Stoke 'N Fire Pottery Studio and Artist Retreat

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Ti Phillips

Expertise

Will answer any questions on hand building, wheel, glaze, firing. Speciality questions to include those in glaze calculation and development, firing techniques. Please do not send questions on identifying pottery. Although I would love to add this to my question topics, I have a retreat to run as well as the studio and volunteering on AllExperts, and therefore do not have the available time to research indentification and marks. Thank you for understanding.

Experience

Experience includes 30 years in pottery design and education. Have taught online and studio classes worldwide for the last 20 years. Own a pottery retreat specializing in firing techniques. Have 12 years solid experience in glaze calculation and formulation as well as problem solving in glaze chemistry. I am the first potter in the United States to have developed a complete package of pottery equipment blueprints for a studio. The blueprints include wheels, kilns, studio furniture, wedgeboards, raku kilns, slab rollers, ball mills and studio tools.

Organizations
Alliance of Pottery Artists Worldwide Association

Publications
Ceramic Industry - PPP Wyndstryder Press - Pottery Journal

Education/Credentials
University of Sciences and Art's of Oklahoma, studied under Professor Jaymes Dudding.

Awards and Honors
Potter of the year with APAWA, various awards for showmanship and design.

Past/Present Clients
Available upon request.

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